Continually Restored

Christmas Devotionals

“Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
so that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.” Psalm 85

Continually Restored

By Ginny Smith

God created mankind and had a covenant with his chosen people. He cared for them, restored them and forgave them. But there was a pattern of his people returning to him and, as the psalmist says, always asking God to “restore us again” and “revive us again.”  It seems that all they felt was his displeasure and anger. They realized they weren’t living up to his expectations. They fell short.

We fall short.

What our amazing God does when he sends Jesus, Emmanuel, to earth to live among us, is His ultimate act of restoration and revival.

God in all his righteousness and goodness reaches down from heaven and kisses the earth with the gift of his son. He provides access to Himself so we can be continually restored. He allows His “glory” to live in our land. He shows us that His “peace” can live in our hearts. He provides a living example of how to get along in this world He created.

Not only do we have written and oral expectations on how to live, we have a personal gift, a guide who now lives within us.

“The LORD will indeed give what is good.”

Our prayer O Lord is to recognize this wonderful gift you have given us. We are so amazed at your desire to be with us and to help us in all ways. Help us unwrap the present of your son and get to know him during this season of advent.

Through him we pray,

Amen

The Gentle Work of Creation

Bering Drive Church of Christ Christmas Devotionals

“Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek. But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace. If the Assyrians come into our land and tread upon our soil, we will raise against them seven shepherds and eight installed as rulers. They shall rule the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod with the drawn sword; they shall rescue us from the Assyrians if they come into our land or tread within our border. Then the remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples, shall be like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which do not depend upon people or wait for any mortal. And among the nations the remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples, shall be like a lion among the animals of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, with no one to deliver. Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.” Micah 5: 1-9

The Gentle Work of Creation

By Jeff Christian

As Jesus draws us nearer to him, we cannot help but become more like the Savior. During the season of Advent, we anticipate what the Lord has in store for our lives. How will Jesus shape us, create us, use us for glory?

We find ourselves somewhere in the middle of creation. The Lord has already done so much in our lives. Jesus has brought us salvation and taught us how to follow the way of ultimate truth. All we have to do is say “Yes” each day as we follow Jesus.

Since Jesus is from the beginning, “whose origin is from old, from ancient of days,” we join the Savior in the work that began before time. Micah 5 promises that “he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord.” Micah wrote this because his audience was mainly the leaders, the national figures who were so overtaken by their own greed that they forgot to care for the poor. This is likely why Micah 5:7 speaks of our dependence upon God far above the politicians and celebrities who fade faster than a twice-marked-down shirt off the sale rack.

God always preserves a remnant of the faithful, those who repent with gratitude, those of us who anticipate more to come. We need no credentials to apply, much less to continue. So, we meet Jesus in a manger, a gentle reminder that the entire world is made new in the humblest of moments.

 

Tomorrow Advent Begins

advent

This is a season of anticipation, a season of waiting and longing for what is coming. We not only focus on Jesus’ birth, but also prepare our hearts for Jesus’ second coming, which is yet to happen. It is in the midst of the waiting that we find those gifts Jesus’ presence will bring us: hope, love, joy, and peace.

Every day there is a short passage of Scripture for you to read. Bering church members have prepared a short devotional as you think about the Scripture and the life of Jesus. May these words stretch you, encourage you, and bless you as you long for our coming King.

Thankful for Everyone

by Jeff Christian

A mass rebellion of mustaches is underway in India. In a caste system where the good people have it made, and the untouchables just have to scrape through life, one of their cultural norms is the privilege of a man being allowed to grow a mustache. For the untouchables, the lowest members of society, those called “Dalits,” they are not allowed to grow mustaches. So in rebellion to generations of oppression, the Dalits are putting their facial hair on display.

Here in Houston, Texas, it would be unthinkable for a church to meet a mustachioed Indian gentleman who grew up a Dalit during worship and say, “Sorry, pal, you cannot come in.” But in Christian history, we have practiced things every bit as inexcusable because of “the way we were raised.”

The now outdated issue I stepped into as a teenager looking for Jesus was the church’s treatment of divorced people. At one time, if you were divorced, too bad so sad for you. “Don’t come back to church, and enjoy your road to hell.” While we shudder to think people would have said something quite that crass, they did. Some still do. But somewhere along the way we realized that divorced people want Jesus, just like happily married people, and single people, and children, and everyone else for that matter. I think it was because some of the children of church leaders started going through divorces, and suddenly they had to rethink a limiting theology more concerned with restriction than collectively journeying through life, all of us wanting to be shaped in the image and likeness of Christ.

At the Bering Drive Church of Christ, we welcome everyone. We are thankful for everyone. Namely because every one of us believes that each of us have experiences in this world that are good and bad; in this world we all have limits. But because of Jesus, even when we are weak, we are strong.

I heard about Bering when I was a college student during the time when the church was taking a giant leap forward in doing what has long been a part of Christian history, but somewhere along the way became rooted in restriction. Women in the 1980s and 1990s at Bering started serving communion with men. Serving. Women started praying to God out loud. Children read Scripture during worship, even if they had not been baptized. People from different nationalities and races joined together in worship, hand-in-hand proclaiming the saving grace we know in Christ Jesus. Gay and straight people sat side-by-side in worship, knowing full well that the promises of God are far reaching. And if a man, woman, or child who grew up a Dalit in India happens to come our way, we will not think twice about swinging open the door, swinging it wide open to say, “We are less-than-perfect ourselves, but just wait until you see the ways the Lord is creating us anew. We cannot wait to share with you what we have.” And that is not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus has always been, who Jesus is, and who Jesus will always be.

Isn’t this the way it always should have been? We believe so. In all of our beautiful imperfection, that is the way it is to this day in this family-sized outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven that we call the Bering Drive Church of Christ.  We do not, in any way, shape, or form, claim to have everything figured out and settled. Jesus taught us to practice mercy over sacrifice, so we take that seriously. And when we say we are thankful for everyone, we give thanks that we are still learning what all of that means in our daily walk with Jesus.

The Next Word After the Final Word

by Jeff Christian

It rained again yesterday. The occasional thunderclap was a little too loud for those of us still soggy from the days of flooding and the weeks of aftermath. We are not at our best.

On Sunday we read the end of First Corinthians, a word meant to orient us and reorient us at the same time. These words help us know who we are, how to walk with Jesus. “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong, and let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

But these are more than words of orientation. For those of us who suffer, these words reorient us. In times of disorientation, they do more than remind. They re-situate us in the promises of God. The words echo “when we are weak, then we are strong.” Be strong? We meet that command of Scripture with the old prayer, “God, give me strength.”

And God is faithful.

But we are not at our best. Some of our Bering family lost so much in the flood. Some of our Bering family are dealing with physical pain, health issues, hope of recovery, and even some personal, family pain. During these reminders of our own vulnerability when the limits of our humanity stare us down unrelentingly, these are the times when we may not be able on our own to stand firm. We may not feel like being courageous today. And as far as actually being strong goes, that may be one of those times when God is just asking too much.

But God keeps speaking to us, reorienting us with the final word of 1 Corinthians 16, not as a list of individual encouragements to individuals, but a group of encouragements to a group of Christians. In this case, that’s us.

Keep alert. We keep watch together.

Stand firm in your faith. “Your” is tied to the previous word to keep alert. So, y’all together, all y’all together, stand together.

Be courageous. Pardon the language from ancient times, but literally, “Act like a man until you actually become a man.” This is not about pretending to be tough. Being “courageous” was foremost about an attitude of willingness to become a man of character, integrity, and service. A big focus of old Greek education was the shaping of the man, which eventually, even in early Christian times, was rightly expanded to include women and children so that everyone is reminded together that we are becoming something we cannot be without the teaching and formation of God working in us.

Be strong. Likewise, even when we are weak, God gives us strength. Even at times like these when we know we are not at our best, we are still being renewed day by day.

Therefore, let all that we do be done in love. That is a good final word. Amen.

God After Harvey

God After Harvey

By Jeff Christian

The waters of the most devastating rainfall in United States history had yet to recede before the blasphemy began. Armchair preachers decided it was time to speak, when in reality the better choice would have been to keep silent. “Hurricane Harvey was God’s way of rebuking the sinners,” was one such blasphemy shot into cyberspace like an unaimed shotgun.

I thought about such ungodly observations while many of our church helped clean out the house of one of our families who lost just about everything in the floods. Mind you, this household is a household of prayer, of Christlike hospitality, a place that continually seeks God’s will and shares the joy of the Lord. Many of us have prayed in that house. Sang in that house. Danced in that house. Raised glasses of cheer because we are loved, and because we love.

Granted, none of us are without sin. We know that. But we also know that the Lord of all creation sustains us in ways well beyond our earthly understandings. Like Elijah in 1 Kings 19 who experienced God, we too experienced God in a gentle whisper after the storm.

Each hug in the long lines at the grocery store was God’s gentle whisper.

Every time we carried waterlogged furniture into the front yard was the sound of God’s gentle whisper.

Every donation, every bottle of water, every time someone asked, “How can I help?” were all the places that God showed up and proclaimed, “I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.”

These were the works of God. These continue to be the moments when love remains, when it is better for us to proclaim God’s presence, not in the storm, but in the gentle whisper that comes after.

Lord, the Light of Your Love Is Shining

Houston Harvey Light Love

We woke up Wednesday morning, August 30, 2017, to sunshine and clear skies. The rain has stopped in Houston. We are grateful to God that all of our people are safe.

The most immediate need will be to help with cleanup of a few homes of our Bering families. We will begin work this morning now that many of the roads have cleared. If you are able to come help, bring work gloves, perhaps something to eat, and some prayer. See the church wide email for specifics, or text Jeff if you need more information.

The Bering building sustained minor damage, primarily ceiling damage in the welcome area where we serve coffee on Sunday mornings. We still do not have power, but hopefully by Sunday we will have electricity. It will be so good to be together on Sunday.

Friday morning at 10:00 a.m., CCSC is asking for volunteers, so about 15-20 can work there if you can.

The mission of the Bering Drive Church of Christ: “Love and Serve God and People.” In the weeks and months to come, the clarity of our mission will be most apparent in our love and service to the Lord, and our love and service to one another and those around Houston. After all, one of the original Greek words for worship means, “work of the people.” It has been truly remarkable to watch the entire city come together to help each other in a time of such dire need.

Thanks be to God that we will be able to continue our love and service.

Volunteers Needed Friday Morning at CCSC

Volunteer Houston Church of ChristWe plan to work with Christian Community Service Center at 10:00 a.m. this Friday, September 1. They need 15-20 volunteers, so if you live in the Bering/Galleria/West University area and are able to volunteer, please come to CCSC at 3434 Branard, or come to Bering at around 9:15, and we will carpool over to CCSC (https://www.ccschouston.org).

Also, the Trotter YMCA near Bering on Augusta is serving as a donation collection center. If you have things to donate, please drop them by the Trotter YMCA (https://www.ymcahouston.org/locations/trotter-family-ymca)

What can we do to help?

Hurricane Harvey How to HelpLike many churches, faith communities, and organizations around Houston, we want to do what we can to help in what will be an enormous recovery effort. Over the next few days we will coordinate with Christian Community Service Center (CCSC) and the YMCA near Bering, which is serving as a staging location for emergency shelters. Most likely we will soon have opportunities to volunteer, as well as bring clothing, water, and other items to these locations. However, since our Bering Family is spread out across the Metro Area from the Gulf Freeway to Sugar Land to Katy to Spring, not mention throughout the City of Houston, all of us who are able to work in our local neighborhoods will do so as we are able, and as needs arise.

For this week:

1) As the local authorities have noted, stay safe, check on your neighbors, and continue to do what Houston has done so well over the past couple of days in sticking together and taking care of one another. And of course, if you have a specific need, please let someone know.

2) Stay in touch with one another, even if it is something as simple as texting, calling, and/or posting on Facebook to let everyone know you are safe.

3) Prepare for the long haul effort it will take to address the needs of many who will need help with cleanup efforts, housing, clothing, and other basic needs. While we want to get to work as soon as possible, this will be a long process that will take weeks and months of working together.

4) Let’s cover this whole city in prayer, asking the Lord to equip us for good works that will build up everyone we can serve, whether friends and family, people coming into our city to help, or anyone we meet.

May the Lord bless you and keep you today.